Our South America journey was over, and both of us were sad to leave. After a horribly long journey from Lima (45 hours door to door, with a fairly unpleasant 15 hour stopover in LA airport), we arrived on Fiji’s main island Viti Levu. We were to meet up with Toby’s dad, Alex and sister, Rachel, who had arrived in Fiji a couple of days before us on holiday. It was exciting to be seeing some people from home after a long time away. Alex had arranged a car to pick us up from the airport and take us to Rakiraki on the north coast of the island, where he had booked an apartment for us all to stay in. It was so nice to have things booked and arranged for us, a great break from the stress (albeit mild stress) of ongoing travel. By the time we arrived we were exhausted, but really happy. Alex had organised for us to spend a few days in Rakiraki before heading to the capital, Suva, and then to continue round the island to the Coral Coast before we made our way back to Nadi, completing a loop of the whole island. He had visited the island several times, so he was to be our personal tour guide.
We arrived in time for a delicious breakfast of tropical fruits and a much needed coffee. Also in Fiji was Toby’s family friend and vet, Ellen, and her two friends and fellow vets Katherine and Emily. The three vets had been in Fiji for a month (they have a great blog, Young Vets Abroad, which you should all check out), and were to spend a few days with us in Rakiraki before they left. It was a nice change to have a gang of us, and it gave us both other people to talk to for once! Once we showered and ate we felt like new people. We then all got into our swimming gear and walked down the hill our apartment was on, to the sea. The sun was strong and the sea was cold. We sat on a wooden jetty, swam in the sea to cool down, and had a good catch up. There was nobody else in sight. Alex remarked that it felt like we could be the last people on Earth, it was so quiet and peaceful. I think we were in love with Fiji already.
That evening we presented everyone with a bottle of Pisco we’d bought in Peru, and made some Pisco Sours. They were pretty good, but the next day we all went out and picked lemons (and got stabbed a lot by the tree), and the next batch of Pisco Sours were much better. Fijian lemons and Peruvian Pisco make good bedfellows.
The next day we lazed by the infinity pool in the morning (yep, we had an infinity pool – such luxury), while Alex and Toby went to the local market. We took a boat across to a small island where we walked along the beaches, climbed palm trees (well, Toby and Alex did), and the vets went on a hunt for mangoes, which proved very fruitful. Later, we returned home, showered, and went fruit picking once again for some more Fijian lemons. That Pisco just wasn’t going to drink itself. We then went out for a lovely meal for Alex’s birthday, where we all tried Kokoda (pronounced Kokonda) for the first time. Kokoda is a dish similar to Peruvian ceviche, made by marinating raw fish in lemon or lime, and then it’s served in fresh coconut milk with cucumber, onions and chilli. It’s like a creamy, spicy, fish salad. Delicious.
After a couple of days enjoying the glorious sunshine in Rakiraki, we traveled further around the island to Suva. The vets returned to Nadi, they were flying to New Zealand for the next part of their trip, so the four of us continuedcircumnavigating Viti Levu. We only had one full day in Suva, which we spent visiting the Fiji museum and eating spicy curry. It also happened to be Fiji day, and although the celebrations weren’t as loud and vibrant as we had expected (I think by the afternoon everyone was drinking Cava, a muddy brown drink made from plant root, which induces relaxation and sleepiness), there was still singing and dancing to be enjoyed.
Unfortunately the weather had become grey, but it was still warm, and we were spending time walking around the town anyway. Fijians we met were pleasantly surprised that we were visiting the less touristy, less beachy and more built up areas of the island, and they frequently remarked how nice it was that we were seeing ‘the real Fiji’.
Maui Bay, Coral Coast
We then continued driving round the island, heading south through small traditional villages and past fields of sugar cane. The last place we were staying was an apartment on hill with beautiful views of the Coral coast and Maui Bay. The weather still hadn’t picked back up to how it had been on our first few days in Rakiraki, but it was still nice and warm and not too cold to go snorkelling in the sea. The nearby beach was deserted except for a few local children playing after school, and we all went for a dip in the sea and shared snorkelling masks (I didn’t have one) to have a good look at the vast array of fish and coral.
The next day we visited a local resort and booked a scuba dive. I was apprehensive but really excited to be diving for the first time. I’m a strong swimmer, and learned to swim when I was quite young, but the idea of being that deep underwater for such a long time is scary! We were due to have one lesson in the pool the next day, and then go for the dive on our last day on the island. The rest of that day was a bit rainy, so we sat in on the resort’s trivia quiz, which we won, which resulted in a free cocktail for Alex.
The next day we had our diving lesson in the pool. Graciella, our diving instructor, taught me and reminded the others about the breathing techniques, how to use your equipment, and how to control your buoyancy. After the lesson in the pool I was much less nervous and much more excited. Everything was fairly easy to use, and my silly worries about breathing properly underwater had dissolved. Our final day in Fiji was the best of all. We got up early and headed down to the resort for our dive. We got into our wetsuits and loaded up the car with all our diving gear. The visibility apparently wasn’t great, but for me it was brilliant. We swam out slowly towards the coral and all dived down together. Graciella and I were at the front, and the more experienced divers followed behind. We swam around for forty minutes which flew by, as we saw turtles, clown fish, an octopus, sting rays and even a shark! It was a wonderful feeling, swimming slowly around the coral reef, it was like a whole new part of the world I had never seen before. I’m now very keen to go on more dives and get my open water Padi licence.
Diving was the perfect end to a lovely week in idyllic Fiji. We were sad to leave, as it’s such a beautiful country and there’s so much more for us to see. Our next stop was then New Zealand, a new country and a new adventure!